Former Deerfield star and current Clemson starting point guard Andrew Young smiles as he holds up his No. 11 jersey that was retired Tuesday night during a ceremony. Young left DWS as the school’s all-time leading scorer. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — For four years, Andre Young dazzled Deerfield-Windsor fans with his speed, defense and athleticism.
On Tuesday, it was Young’s turn to be speechless.
The 2008 DWS graduate stood on his old high school court before Tuesday’s game between the Knights and Tiftarea as his high school career was remembered and then enshrined by DWS boys coach Gordy Gruhl, who officially retired Young’s No. 11 Knights jersey.
Young didn’t speak in front of the packed house — which was filled with former teammates and friends to witness the ceremony — but if he had spoken he would have had trouble putting into words what his time at Deerfield-Windsor meant to him.
“I would have had a lot of people to thank. I definitely couldn’t have done this by myself. … I couldn’t even explain it in words,” said Young, who is now a senior at Clemson and leading the Tigers in scoring as its starting point guard.
His career has taken off since shedding his DWS jersey for Clemson gear four years ago, but he was adamant Tuesday evening that he won’t forget where he came from.
“It’s a great honor and a great feeling to have all of these people here,” said the 5-foot-9 point guard, whose number is the third to be retired by the boys basketball program — and just the seventh athlete in the school’s history.
Young then added: “You look around and you see familiar faces. Everyone went their own way, but they all came back for this and to celebrate this event.”
Gruhl looked into the crowd full of those supporters before he coached the Knights to a 74-24 win against Tiftarea, and the longtime DWS coach explained how much Young meant to both the school and the basketball program.
“It’s kind of tough to talk about (how much Young has meant),” Gruhl said as he paused and teared up. “I was just like this at his graduation day.”
Gruhl may have momentarily struggled to find the right words, but there’s no doubt how much Young still means to his former coach.
“He was just one of those players that if you stay in it long enough you are fortunate to get one guy like that,” Gruhl said before the ceremony. “He was the consummate team player. The kid is a great student. The biggest thing about him is that I have never in all the 28 years I have been here seen somebody that everybody loves. The teachers loved him. The kids loved him. He was a great role model for the young players, and he left a great legacy. He set the bar for the teams behind him.”
The bar couldn’t be any higher at Deerfield-Windsor, where Young left his name all over the record book. His school record 2,062 points began with a floater during the first game his freshman year.
“I actually remember my first basket,” said Young, who had a 9 a.m. practice Tuesday for Clemson before making the 10-hour trip to Albany for the ceremony. “It was just a floater shot on the baseline. We won the game, and I remember thinking it was a fast game because I had just come from middle school.”
He quickly learned how to adjust to the new speed — a trait he carried straight to Clemson.
He was a four-year starter at DWS and earned a full ride to Clemson, where he will graduate this year with honors with a degree in heath science. Young, who averaged 22 points and five assists a game his senior year in high school, is also the career assists leader at DWS and finished with a 96-10 career record.
He currently leads Clemson (8-6) in scoring with 12.9 points per game, while he’s first in steals with 23 and second in assists with 51. But Gruhl said the star point guard is about much more than basketball.
“It’s nice to be able to honor somebody with the kind of character as Andre Young,” Gruhl said. “We were very blessed to have him here at this school.”
And every step along the way, Andre’s father, Colie Young, was right by his side. Colie said he knew his son was going to be special nearly 20 years ago.
“When he was 2, we bought him a basketball and a baseball,” Colie said. “He took the baseball, and just like a pitcher he wound up and threw it. My wife said, ‘He’s going to be a baseball player.’ He never threw that baseball again. I hid the baseball, and I said, ‘Here’s the basketball.’ ”
Andre grabbed the basketball and never looked back. At the age of 2, he was emulating Michael Jordan’s reverse dunks in his living room. Nearly two decades later, kids are now emulating him.
“The hard work paid off,” Colie said. “He’s gone on to another chapter, but the story has not ended. At this point he has been contacted by eight different agents on Facebook. I spoke to one of them last night. He has some aspirations of going overseas to play basketball. I understand that the NBA is a long shot, especially with his size, but he has some opportunities to play overseas.”
Andre said he hasn’t made a decision on his basketball future and is fully focused on his senior season at Clemson, where he opens up ACC play Saturday against Florida State.
“My main focus is with the team right now, because we have another half of the season left to play,” Young said. “Afterwards, I just hope to play somewhere. We will just see where our opportunities lie. I will get with the coaches and my family, and we will make a decision.”
For now, Young is content with concentrating on his college career and celebrating his high school days.
Young’s number is the first to be retired at DWS since former Knight and Georgia Bulldog Joey Carroll’s No. 52 in 2003. Other DWS basketball jerseys retired are those of Perry Revell (No. 25), Teresa Brown (No. 15), Kellie Gardner (No. 14) and Fain Spurlock (No. 21). Former Knights football star Wayne Riles also has his number retired.
Young’s jersey will forever be preserved in a case outside the DWS gymnasium, right alongside the rest of the school’s revered history. However, a quick glance over his shoulder, and Young realized the wall full of encased jerseys seemed to be full.
“I guess I wouldn’t mind taking it with me and putting it up on my own wall,” Young said with a smile.
He might as well.
They’ll never forget him at Deerfield-Windsor anyway.